CHOGM: Ugandans Need a Report

Published on 29th January 2008

The Common Wealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was what we might call a jack-pot for Uganda. It is no wonder that one lady asked “Will the Queen put food on my table?!” As harsh as it may sound, for a mother who has five kids to look after single handedly, this is a material concern and as far as she is concerned, she has no business getting worked up over something that she’s not certain will accord her direct benefit, put food on the table and keep a roof over her head.

 

The fuss is clearly over. The only mention of CHOGM you are likely to come across is with regard to accountability for funds spent by government. This however cannot dissuade us from asking the real questions. The common man would want to know whether CHOGM provided real gains, particularly the kind that would accrue to the poor. The general feeling was that only wealthy influential people gained from this gathering.

 

Considering the pomp of this historical event, the government ought to clearly highlight its long term gains to the citizenry. Were new markets for example created? Were any partnerships formed?  Was Africa positioned to have a stronger bargaining power within the commonwealth? Were we able to forge best practices as far as business, governance and democracy are concerned? Being representatives of the people African leaders must be able to present a report.

 

I don’t intend to insinuate that there were no benefits, on the contrary. There was a huge direct impact on business throughout that period. The hospitality industry saw a big boom, probably the biggest in a long time; the same goes for the tourism sector to which the hospitality industry is directly linked. One vital indirect benefit was credible platform for all stakeholders including the broader civil/NGO society to share ideas, knowledge, and experiences as was the case in the Business forum. However, is the post-CHOGM position of the common man any different? Is it bound to change in the near future?

 

Let us note that it took massive input to prepare for this event; ministry budgets were cut, money was borrowed, grants were received, public-private partnerships were entered into and to say the least, the government did not spare any resource to ensure the success of this event. Can the same be said of the war in the north or the fight against hunger, poverty and corruption? Do we see the government putting in as much effort to wipe out these ills?

 

CHOGM should not simply go down in the history books of Uganda without something to show for it. It is important that the African CHOGM states follow what was achieved particularly in regard to sounding the African voice on the global scene. Africa must be heard as a source of credible solutions to global concerns as well as strengthening Africa’s bargaining power in as far as trade and commerce are concerned on the world market. If hosting CHOGM didn’t realize these for Uganda and Africa at large, then we lost one of the greatest platforms we will ever have.


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